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Kenney warns country in peril if Alberta doesn’t get fair deal

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Premier Jason Kenney took his “urgent” mission for a “Fair Deal ” for Alberta to Ottawa on Monday saying the country is at risk if the feds don’t help out.

Kenney said Alberta’s ability to be the “Golden Goose” of Canada’s economy is in peril, thereby putting the stability of Confederation in at risk.

“Without Alberta in the last five years, Ottawa’s debt would be $100 billion more than it is,” said Kenney in a speech to the Canadian Club of Ottawa.

The premier told the crowd that out of 129 listed Alberta oil and gas companies, half have lost more than 90% of their value, been sold or delisted.

He noted the rest of Canada has been silent as Alberta lost 80,000 oil patch jobs but exploded in anger when 3,000 auto workers were laid off in Oshawa.

Kenney said the economic downturn has hit Alberta hard with increases in crime, suicide and family break-ups.

“The per capita suicide rate is 50 per cent higher than it is in Ontario,” he said.

“Government policy has made a bad situation worse,” Kenney said, pointing out things like the federal carbon tax, the TMX and Keystone pipeline halts and the cancellation of Energy East.

Kenney pointed out a recent polled that showed nearly 80% of Albertans “understand or sympathize” with groups that would like to see independence.

In his meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tomorrow, Kenney said he was after five main things: guarantees on the TMX pipeline; a $1.7-billion back payment from the Fiscal Stabilization Fund, the repealing of bills C-48 and 69; expansion of tax instruments like flow-through shares and for the PM to come forward with an equivalency agreement for Alberta’s methane emissions regulation..

Courtesy Wikipedia

Kenney received applause from the crowd when he said he was a committed federalist and a standing ovation at the end of his speech.

Liberal deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland was in the audience for the speech.

Kenney and a number of his cabinet ministers will meet with Trudeau and staff tomorrow.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland (source: Flickr)

dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

Twitter: Nobby7694

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard. He has served as the City Editor of the Calgary Sun and has covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years. dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com

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Alberta’s tax revolt tango

As of July 2019, Alberta had the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada for corporations other than manufacturing and processing.

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To pay, or not to pay, that is the question.

From the Value of Alberta conference in Calgary last weekend – where some were suggesting Albertans stop paying federal taxes – to today where former Liberal leader David Swann held a press conference saying he was refusing to pay his provincial taxes, this dance is just getting started.

The former is a protest for a “fair deal” for Alberta and the latter is a protest against the $173 million that oil and gas companies owe Alberta municipalities.  

Swann said in a statement that he was “outraged.

“Our government shouldn’t have one set of rules for their corporate friends and another for the rest of us Albertans.”

He also accused the Kenney government of condoning “tax evasion in the oil patch.”

Focusing on “roads they use, schools that train their workers and, services that support their operations,” Swann accused oil and gas companies of “brazenly flouting provincial laws and cheating hardworking families.”

Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) released a statement on Monday saying that a member survey had identified unpaid property tax, owed to municipalities by oil and gas companies, had now reached approximately $173 million.

“Non-payment of taxes by oil and gas companies on property that they own and operate has been an ongoing issue for rural municipalities,” said the RMA release.

“[M]unicipalities require property taxes to provide the infrastructure and services that industry relies on to access natural resources. If Alberta’s property tax system is not amended to prevent oil and gas companies from refusing to pay property taxes, many rural municipalities will struggle to remain viable,” RMA President Al Kemmere said.

During an interview with Ryan Jespersen on Wednesday, Kemmere was asked whether there was a separate conversation to be had between bankruptcy and just not paying.

Kemmere said they were separate but linked because municipalities do not have the same tools to collect unpaid tax from oil and gas companies as they do from residents and other businesses.

“Municipalities being faced with these oil and gas companies not paying their taxes on an ongoing basis, if we can deal with it immediately, we can stop the accumulation that sometimes (goes on) for two or three years and then a bankruptcy takes place and (municipalities) are left with nothing (due to the Redwater decision),” Kemmere said.

The Redwater decision put environmental responsibilities above creditors for repayment and municipalities as creditors specifically are a lesser priority on the list for collection claims.

Municipalities are facing increased pressure to reduce services or raise residential property taxes already as a result of the October budget which saw municipalities lose up to 50 per cent of their capital expense funding.

Smaller municipalities are also on the hook for increased policing costs which will begin at 10 per cent this coming April, move to 15 per cent in 2021, 20 per cent in 2022 and 30 per cent by 2023.

Jason Wilson, a county councillor in Wheatland noted that his county, which has just under 9,000 residents, will have to come up with an additional million dollars to cover policing by 2023.

“RMA members have been impacted by provincial decisions to attract industry through reduced red tape and government spending in the form of reduced municipal grants, increased expectations for municipalities to contribute to policing costs, and an ongoing review (of) Alberta’s assessment model which is likely to result in reduced tax revenue in many municipalities,” said Kemmere.

Qualifying shallow oil and gas wells in rural Alberta were given a 35 per cent tax cut for 2019 – equivalent to the education tax portion of property taxes – and Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu announced in December the program will be extended through 2020. The Alberta government said approximately “70,000 wells and their associated pipelines will receive about $20 million in total support” from the additional tax cut for the 2019 tax year.

Corporations in Alberta received a one per cent tax decrease last July and a further one per cent decrease January 1, 2020. They will receive another one per cent overall tax reduction in 2021 and an additional one per cent in 2022.

Alberta was tied with Saskatchewan and Ontario for the lowest corporate tax rate of all provinces as of January for manufacturing and processing taxes. In Canada, only the Yukon boasts a lower rate at 2.5 per cent.

As of July 2019, Alberta had the lowest corporate tax rate in Canada for corporations other than manufacturing and processing.

Premier Jason Kenney responded to RMA’s release by saying “you can’t wring money from a stone.”

“They simply don’t have the cash, in some cases, to pay these property taxes, and if these businesses go under there’s no revenue stream from taxation going to these municipalities,” Kenney said on Tuesday.

Some municipalities are relying on diversity instead.

Foothills County’s Chief Administrative Officer, Harry Riva Cambrin, told Okotoks Online they’re doing better now than they were a few years ago.

“How this all took place for us was mostly in natural gas. As the price became lower and lower, the operations… wells and pipelines became money losers,” Riva Cambrin said.

“So naturally, the companies started to walk away from their facilities and stopped paying their municipal taxes and lease payments to land owners.”

Riva Cambrin says the municipality will continue to diversify and work to attract industrial businesses and green energy to the region to continue to replace the loss of revenue from oil and gas.

story ideas? dmaclean@westernstandardonline.com Twitter: @Mitchell_AB

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B.C. hospice given euthanasia ultimatum

A ten-bed palliative hospice in Delta, B.C. has two choices: allow euthanasia or give up government funding.

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A ten-bed palliative hospice in Delta, B.C. has two choices: allow euthanasia or give up government funding.

The Irene Thomas Hospice has been embroiled in months of controversy after its opposition to euthanasia was challenged. Under directives of the provincial government and the Fraser Health Authority, the hospice has been given until Feb. 3 to make its intentions known. But many believe it’s not a choice any palliative care facility should have to make.

“The hospice palliative care and euthanasia are diametrically opposed medical disciplines,” says Angelina Ireland, president of the Delta Hospice Society which runs the hospice.

“They are two separate lanes. They do not cross. One is not among the basket of options of  the end of life care.”

Ireland said that complying with the Fraser Health Authority’s directive would force it to violate its legal commitments under the province’s Societies’ Act which requires them to follow their charter. She notes that medical assistance in dying (MAiD) is available in other locations, including a facility next door to the hospice.

“Nobody wanting such a service would be prevented access,” Ireland said.

“The issue is not accessibility. It seems to be a purely agenda-driven demand that runs rough shod over both Delta Hospice Society’s desire to live up to its legal requirements under our Charter, as well as ignoring the reality that we are dealing with patients and families in a very vulnerable and delicate position.”

When contacted by the Western Standard Dixon Tam, Fraser Health’s senior consultant for public affairs, issued the following statement: “We understand this is a very difficult and emotional issue for people, however, we have to remember that at the heart of all of this is the patient and their right to choose. Our position has been, and continues to be, that we support the patient’s right to receive MAiD wherever they may be, including in a hospice setting.

A letter from Fraser Health VP Norm Peters dated Dec. 23 informed the society it would be considered in breach of contract unless it agreed by Feb. 3 to provide MAiD.

The society countered with a compromise. Under provincial policy, any contracted organization that gets funding for more than 50 percent of its beds must allow MAiD to be assessed and provided at the place where end-of-life services are normally offered.

On Jan. 15, the society told Fraser Health it was willing to forfeit $750,000 in provincial funding to get under the 50 per cent threshold. The society would fundraise to make up the funding shortfall.

Euthanasia was not even legal in Canada until 2016, but was allowed for the terminally ill following the Carter decision in the Supreme Court of Canada. Later that year, the Fraser Health Authority mandated that hospices provide the procedure.

Nancy Macey, the executive director and founder of the hospice in 1991, was opposed to providing the procedure on site. In September of 2019, the Delta Hospice Society board fired her and voted to allow medical assistance in dying (MAID) at the hospice.

Supporters of Macey started a membership drive that swelled the society’s numbers to over 600 from fewer than 200. A raucous meeting in November housed more than 300 attendees. The result was a new slate of directors that reversed the board’s decision to allow euthanasia.

In a recent statement, Conservative MP Tamara Jansen, who represents Cloverdale-Langley City, spoke in defense of the Delta hospice.

“I am very disappointed that the NDP government is threatening to shut down the Irene Thomas Hospice (ITH), unless medical staff are willing to betray their deeply-held personal beliefs and participate in the taking of patient lives through MAiD [medical assistance in dying],” Jansen said in a statement.

Ireland said: “I have had tremendous support . . . not only from hospice palliative physicians, but physicians from all of all over this country that are sticking up for the kind of work that we do.”

The Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association issued a joint statement last November that said, “Less than 30% of Canadians have access to high quality hospice palliative care, yet more than 90% of all deaths in Canada would benefit from it. . . deaths from MAiD account for less than 1.5% of all deaths in Canada.”

Ireland wishes it was euthanasia centres that had to fundraise, not palliative care centers.

“If people want to have a MAiD centre, then they should do the kinds of things that we did. We fundraised, we opened up a facility with private money. That’s probably what they should do. The two things should be able to operate in the same world,” Ireland said.

“We’re not trying to argue with people that want to have MAiD. That’s just not a service that we provide or that we are able to provide.”

Last December, Health Minister Adrian Dix said providing euthanasia was a necessary prerequisite for public funding. 

“Of course, we do live in a free society,” Dix said.

“Delta Hospice Society can decide that it doesn’t want to continue to receive support from the Fraser Health Authority in its mission. They can choose to do that. You can absolutely have it your way. But you can’t have it both ways.”

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Liberals promise quick action on gun confiscation. Say guns are privilege, not a right

The federal government says they are looking to ban assault-style rifles across the country quickly – despite the fact they haven’t defined what constitutes one yet.

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The federal government says they are looking to ban “assault rifles” and “military-style” guns across the country quickly – despite the fact they haven’t defined what constitutes one yet, or have been already banned since the 1970s.

At a Liberal cabinet retreat in Winnipeg this week, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the “military-style” rifle ban will come in the “near term.”

But he said a government “buy-back” plan for those type of guns already out there would need more time to sort out. The Liberal’s have said they plan on spending up to $250 million buying back the now-legal weapons but critics argue that is woefully inadequate.

“We are very mindful we are dealing with law-abiding Canadians and I want to make sure they are treated fairly and respectfully,” Blair told reporters.

“Firearm ownership in this country is a privilege earned by the adherence to our strict regulations, and I have nothing but respect for those who have been adhering to those regulations.”

He added other measure’s in the government’s gun crackdown would be brought into Parliament in stages.

Blair told a press conference that a planned partial handgun ban will require negotiations with the provinces.

During the October election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to ban “military-style assault weapons” and allow municipalities to ban handguns.

Blair said his government was working to help communities being shattered by gun violence.

“Our work is to reduce the supply of guns getting into the hands of criminals, but you also have to interdict the demand for those guns,” he said.

“We have just gone through, for many communities across Canada, a very difficult summer last year. And so we want to make sure we are there for those communities and work in those communities to make substantive changes and investments that will help to keep them safe.”

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
Twitter: @Nobby7694

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